OMICRON VARIANT B1.1.529




Omicron variant

TABLE OF CONTENT

  1. Mutations In Omicron Variant
  2. Symptoms Of The Omicron Variant
  3. Current knowledge about Omicron
  4. Prior SARS-CoV-2 Infection’s Efficacy
  5. Key Points to Remember regarding the Omicron variant from the WHO website
  6. Omicron may have other advantages that give it an edge
  7. Concerns about omicron spreading through the air
  8. Measures To Reduce The Risk Of The Omicron Variant

While we all strive to go back to normal, the Omicron variant has raised doubts about whether countries may go into another lock-down as covid-19 cases have declined in recent weeks. It’s been nearly a year since the virus’s first strain was identified in Wuhan, China, and the world is still fighting it.

So far, four variants have been identified as being of concern, and the WHO has added the additional variant “Omicron” to the list.

On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization named the Omicron variant a variation of concern (VOC).

The variant was first discovered in South Africa on November 24, 2021, and is said to have a higher transmissibility rate than the previous Delta variant, which was discovered in India in October 2020 and spreads more easily than earlier strains of the virus, resulting in more cases and deaths around the world.

The variation has been found in a number of different nations throughout the world and is rapidly spreading in areas where population immunity is high.


Omicron

It also has a high binding capacity to ACE2 receptors that are present in the alveoli cells which can lead to an increased virus entry compared to that of the Delta variant. This further means that the Omicron variant has a higher replication rate and viral load.

Omicron has been declared as a COVID-19 variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) based on early data indicating it spreads more rapidly than the previous Delta variant, which was responsible for the global outbreak.

A variant of concern is one that may change how the pandemic behaves, so the WHO pays close attention to it.

Omicron is still being studied as a variant, and the clinical picture isn’t well understood. However, the variant should not be dismissed even though it seems to be causing less severe disease.

1. Mutations In Omicron Variant

The Omicron variant contains a high number of mutations in its spike protein, roughly 30, which can lead to immune evasion and more severe disease. This protein helps the virus to attach to our body and also antibodies are developed against this protein be it natural infection or after vaccination.

The Omicron variant contains a high number of mutations in its spike protein, roughly 30, which can lead to immune evasion and more severe disease. This protein helps the virus to attach to our body and also antibodies are developed against this protein be it natural infection or after vaccination. This could result in serious side effects.

Some of the mutations in Omicron are comparable to those found in the other four variants, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, raising concerns about the severity and transmissibility of the disease.

In viruses, mutations are widespread, and the Covid-19 virus has more than five variants. Variants are classed as Variants of Concern, Variants of Interest, and Variants of High Consequence depending on their transmissibility, evasion of immunity (natural or vaccine driven), and resistance to treatments.

The Delta variant is the most common strain all throughout the world, and it is also the variant of Concern. The Delta variant took months to become a cause for concern, but Omicron just only a few weeks to enter this category and become a cause for concern presently.

Scientists are concerned because this variant of the virus has accumulated 50 mutations (35 more than Delta), possibly having spent a long time reproducing and evolving in one person’s body.




2. Symptoms Of The Omicron Variant

Symptoms Of The Omicron Variant
Omicron Variant Symptoms

The symptoms caused by Omicron and other variants appeared to be identical. Also, more information is needed to determine whether the variant causes a more severe disease than other variants.

The great majority of persons infected with omicron, like previous variants, get a mix of symptoms that recover swiftly and do not require hospitalization.

Early evidence suggests that for most people, at least those who are up to date on their Covid vaccines, omicron appears to cause milder illness that can resemble the common cold, another form of the coronavirus.

Omicron symptoms may differ from those of previous variants.

The symptoms of omicron are classified into most common symptoms, less common symptoms & serious symptoms.

a. Most common symptoms

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of the COVID Variant “Omicron”:

  • fever,
  • cough,
  • tiredness,
  • loss of taste or smell.
  • night sweats and lower back pain

b. Less common symptoms

Less common symptoms for the new COVID Variant “Omicron” are:

  • Sore throat,
  • Headache,
  • Aches,
  • Body Pains,
  • Diarrhoea,
  • A rash on skin,
  • Discolouration of fingers or toes
  • Red or irritated eyes.

c. Serious symptoms

Serious symptoms for the new COVID Variant “Omicron” are:

  • Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath,
  • loss of speech or mobility, confusion, or chest pain are among symptoms to look out for.

Omicron, like earlier variants, cannot be classified as causing a specific set of symptoms. Many patients are still experiencing fever, gastrointestinal problems, aches and pains, brain fog, weakness, and, less often, trouble breathing, as they were earlier in the pandemic, according to Mount Sinai’s Carr.

Once you’ve been infected with omicron, the symptoms appear more quickly. According to several studies, the incubation period, or the time it takes for symptoms to appear after being exposed, is roughly three days.

Delta, on the other hand, took roughly four days to complete, whereas the original variant took more than five.

According to WHO preliminary research, this variant caused more reinfections than other variants. Though Omicron caused infections in Vaccinated individuals in South Africa and other countries, it is too early to conclude if the variant causes more Breakthrough infections.

3. Current knowledge about Omicron

Researchers in South Africa and around the world are conducting research to better understand many aspects of Omicron, and the results of these studies will be shared as they become available.

a. Transmissibility

It’s unclear whether Omicron is more transmissible (easier to pass from person to person) than other variants, such as Delta. In areas of South Africa afflicted by this variant, the number of people testing positive has increased, but epidemiologic studies are underway to determine if this is due to Omicron or other factors. 

b. Disease severity

Delta variant

It is unknown whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease than infections with other forms, such as Delta.

According to preliminary data, hospitalization rates are rising in South Africa, however, this could be due to an increase in the general number of persons becoming infected rather than a specific Omicron infection.

There is currently no evidence that the symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those associated with other variants.

According to preliminary findings, most people who get Omicron experience just minor symptoms.

Experts from all across the world are keeping a close eye on it to see if it is more prone than previous variants to cause serious illness.

In South Africa, Omicron cases are surging, already overtaking Delta. There is a real danger that Omicron could hit the world the way Delta did a year ago, and possibly worse, so we need to be extremely cautious.

The spreading of Omicron
The spreading of Omicron (red), Delta (blue), and Beta (green) variants in their first 100 days [South African data reported in the FT]

All COVID-19 variants, including the globally widespread Delta variant, can cause serious illness or death, especially in the most vulnerable persons, hence prevention is always a priority.

4. Prior SARS-CoV-2 Infection’s Efficacy

Preliminary research suggests that patients who have previously had COVID-19 may be more susceptible to reinfection with Omicron than with other variants of concern, although data is limited.

a. Vaccine effectiveness

WHO is collaborating with technical partners to determine the impact of this variant on existing countermeasures, such as vaccines. Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death.

b. Effectiveness of current diagnostics

As with other variants, commonly used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron. Other types of tests, such as quick antigen detection tests, are being studied to see if there is any impact.

c. Current treatments’ effectiveness

Corticosteroids and IL6 Receptor Blockers will continue to be successful in the treatment of patients with severe COVID-19.

Other therapies will be evaluated to see if they are still effective in light of the Omicron variant’s alterations to portions of the virus.

d. Current research

WHO is currently collaborating with a large number of researchers from around the world to better understand Omicron. Assessments of transmissibility, the severity of infection (including symptoms), the performance of vaccinations and diagnostic tests, and the efficiency of therapies are all currently underway or will be soon.

WHO urges countries to contribute to the gathering and exchange of hospitalized patient data via the WHO COVID-19 Clinical Data Platform so that clinical features and patient outcomes can be described quickly.

The WHO’s TAG-VE is continuing to monitor and analyze data as it becomes available, as well as determining how changes in Omicron affect the virus’s behavior.

e. Recommended actions for countries

Because Omicron has been designated as a Variant of Concern, WHO recommends that countries take the following steps:

  • Improving surveillance and case sequencing
  • sharing genome sequences on publicly available databases, such as GISAID; reporting initial cases or clusters to WHO
  • Conducting field investigations and laboratory assessments to better understand if Omicron has different transmission or disease characteristics, or impacts the effectiveness of vaccines.

Countries should continue to use a risk analysis and science-based approach to undertake appropriate public health measures to limit COVID-19 circulation generally. To deal with an increase in cases, they need to expand some public health and medical capacities. WHO provides help and advice to nations in terms of both readiness and implementation.

f. Recommended actions for people:

The most effective steps individuals may take to minimize the spread of the Omicron variant and COVID-19 virus are to:

  • Maintain a physical distance of at least 1 meter from others.
  • Wear a mask that fits well and open windows to increase ventilation.
  • Avoid crowded or poorly ventilated areas, and keep your hands clean.
  • When it’s their turn, cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or tissue and get vaccinated.

colourized electron microscopy
Isolated from a patient sample, a colorized electron microscopy image of a cell (red) infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (yellow).
Science Source

5. Key Points to Remember regarding the Omicron variant from the WHO website

World Health Organization

a. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, genetic lineages of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged and circulated over the world. There may be as many as 14,000 identified mutations, but only a few have been identified as Variants of Concern. There are usually more than three mutations in these variations.

b. In the United States, epidemiological investigations, virus genetic sequence-based surveillance, and laboratory research are now routinely monitored for SARS-CoV-2 genetic lineages. This has only been true of the US government since President Biden allocated money for genome sequencing. Under the previous administration, the United States tracked variants exclusively through individual laboratories, which reported to the WHO’s worldwide tracking system.

c. On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization classified Omocron as a variant of concern (34 spike protein mutations). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) soon followed. There are 15 spike protein mutations in the Delta variant.

d. The US Government’s SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG) designated Omicron as a Variant of Concern (VOC) on November 30, 2021, following the same classification made by the World Health Organization. by the World Health Organization, keeper of the master list and naming.

e. Omicron was classified based on the following criteria:

  • Detection of cases attributed to Omicron in multiple countries, including among those without travel history.
  • Transmission and replacement of the Delta variant in South Africa.
  • The number and locations of substitutions in the spike protein.
  • Availability of data for other variants with fewer substitutions in the spike protein, demonstrating a reduction in neutralisation by sera from vaccinated or convalescent patients or by particular monoclonal antibody therapies.

The SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG) of the US government categorized Omicron as a Variant of Concern on November 30, 2021. (VOC). The following criteria were used to make this classification:

  • Detection of cases attributed to Omicron in multiple countries, including among those without travel history.
  • Transmission and replacement of the Delta variant in South Africa.
  • The number and locations of substitutions in the spike protein.
  • Data for other variants with fewer mutations in the spike protein that show a decrease in neutralisation by sera from vaccinated or convalescent people.
  • Available data for other variants with fewer substitutions in the spike protein that indicate reduced susceptibility to certain monoclonal antibody treatments.

Scientists that followed the path of this superspreader event came to the conclusion that omicron was “extremely transmissible” among fully vaccinated individuals.




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6. Omicron may have other advantages that give it an edge.

With so many mutations, it’s still possible that omicron has extra characteristics that make it more contagious than other variants,  advantages that rely on more than breaking through our prior immunity.

Omicron may be able to make more copies of itself within a cell, or it may be able to adhere to cells more effectively.

It’s time to update your COVID’s risk budget. Here’s how it works:

One significant distinction with omicron is how rapidly an infected person becomes contagious.

Omicron appears to have a shorter incubation period, which could result in a significant increase in infection rates across the population.

Researchers found that omicron multiplied about 70 times faster than delta did in tissue samples from the bronchus, the large airways that lead from the trachea to the lungs.

omicron has much more trouble infecting cells in lung tissue than the original version of the coronavirus that was first identified in Wuhan, China.

Omicron, like other variants, spreads through close-range respiratory droplets and virus particles that float in the air and can stay suspended for a long time, especially in regions with poor ventilation.

COVID-19 variant

7. Concerns about omicron spreading through the air

If omicron does spread more easily through the air, this faster replication in the bronchus would be one of the two most likely explanations, says Linsey Marr, a professor of engineering at Virginia Tech who studies how viruses transmit in the air. “Infected people are either releasing a lot more virus particles into the air or you can breathe in fewer of them and still become infected — or some combination of those,” she says.

Hong Kong scientists detail how a traveler under quarantine at a hotel infected a person staying across the corridor but never had face-to-face contact in a report released in early December. The authors find that “airborne transmission over the corridor” is the most likely scenario.

“That suggests a very small amount of the virus was able to cause an infection,” says Dr. Michael Klompas, an infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This could mean that omicron requires a smaller dose than previous variants to infect people, although there’s no data yet to establish whether that is true, he says.

While disturbing, such early anecdotes must be read with caution. Similar cases of airborne transmission have been reported with Delta, and hotels and other locations that have been repurposed to segregate affected visitors are difficult to change into quarantine facilities.

“Can we catch omicron in the air more easily than other variants?” “I don’t believe that is known,” Rasmussen replies. “It’s quite clear that you can catch it.”

8. Measures To Reduce The Risk Of The Omicron Variant

Despite the numerous unsolved issues regarding why omicron is so widespread, scientists say it’s critical to remember that the coronavirus has not evolved into a completely different virus.

When it comes to minimizing your personal risk, the same principles apply:

  • Wear a high-quality mask such as a N95,
  • If possible, and avoid big meetings with unmasked people, especially if they haven’t been vaccinated.
  • Even brief face-to-face interactions tend to be riskier with omicron, in fact many people have relied only on vaccines. according to Chanda, “If you walk into a room full of people and someone is infected, the chances have dramatically increased that you will get the virus” whether you’re vaccinated or boosted.

These risk-reduction strategies are cumulative, so you should aim to use as many as feasible.

When it comes to this pandemic, the COVID-19 vaccines should remain a top priority. Regardless of the variants, how they spread, or how serious the sickness they create. There is no reason to believe that the current vaccines are ineffective against the new Omicron variant. Vaccines can still protect people from serious illness and, in some situations, death.

The advice from medical professionals still remains the same

a. Make sure you’re completely vaccinated with the country’s available vaccines; you’re only fully vaccinated if you’ve obtained both required doses.

b. Obey the safety protocol:

  • Always wear a mask when in public,
  • Remain at least 6 feet away from other people,
  • Isolate yourself if you’ve got the virus, and
  • Get tested if you’re experiencing symptoms.
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